The Miami Dolphins have numerous positions up for grabs when the 2012 Training Camp opens on Friday, July 27, and one area of the team to focus on is the offensive line. Most fans would agree that center and the left side of the line of scrimmage is one of the strengths of this team, but the same cannot be said about the right side where no starters will return to the roster from last season. New offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has stated in the off-season that this offense needs to have the ability to run the football when it wants to, and that means it’s paramount that this unit come together quickly in camp! Here’s a preview of the talent and depth at the position.
-Mike Pouncey: This second-year offensive lineman was everything we expected and more in his rookie debut. Strong, athletic, intelligent and durable are just a few of the qualities that Pouncey put on display last season. Pouncey started all 16 games for the Dolphins in 2011 and became only the sixth rookie in team history to do so! There is little doubt that he’s learned some tricks of the trade in year one, and that should keep him on the fast track to lead this offensive line in 2012!
-Ryan Cook: Cook played a reserve role for the Dolphins in 2011. A six-year veteran is always a nice luxury to have around and at 6’6 and 328 pounds, Cook has the ability move an opponent against their will at the point of attack and can also play the guard position.
-Richie Incognito: Incognito is one part of the left side of this offensive line that helped running back Reggie Bush rush for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in his pro career. Incognito started 15 games in 2012 and played well in tandem along side Pro Bowl starter Jake Long. Incognito is a tenacious run blocker who can engage and move defensive tackles and linebackers. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the zone blocking scheme and getting to the second level of the defense. Incognito will be counted on to stay healthy and continue to help dominate opposing defenses.
-Artis Hicks: Hicks is well-traveled offensive lineman who was signed by the Dolphins this off-season. Hicks has played in 115 games in his career and started 70 of them, including a start in Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He just might be penciled in to start at right guard for Miami in 2012, and is one of the players head coach Joe Philbin is counting on to provide experience and productivity from day one.
-John Jerry: This looks to be a make or break season for Jerry in terms of earning a starting position for the Dolphins! He started three games in 2011 (one at right guard and two at left tackle replacing an injured Jake Long) and played well in every opportunity. This should give Jerry the confidence not only that he has the ability to start, but also it should give the staff the flexibility to take a long look at Jerry. He can fill-in at four different positions along the offensive front and that’s something that isn’t easy to do.
-Ray Feinga: In only his second season as a pro, Feinga will have an opportunity to make his presence felt throughout training camp. He spent most of the 2011 season on the Dolphins practice squad (nine of the first 12 weeks) and was moved to the active roster on November 30th of last year.
-Derek Dennis: Dennis is one of two undrafted free agent offensive lineman that the Dolphins have signed going into training camp. A quality that shouldn’t be overlooked is that Dennis played multiple positions during his stay at Temple. He started all 13 games at left guard in 2011, and in 2010, he made two starts at right guard, one at left guard and four starts at left tackle.
-Josh Samuda: Samuda is another undrafted free agent lineman that has experience playing multiple positions in college. During Samuda’s time at UMass he played right guard in his senior season, but lined up at left guard in his two previous seasons. A local high school product from Hollywood Hills High School, Samuda would love to impress this new staff and challenge to make the final 53!
-Jake Long: A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Long is looking to stay healthy and on the field for the 2012 season. Jake was placed on injured reserve at the end of last season (December 27th) missing the final game of the regular season. There is little doubt that when Long is healthy, he’s arguably the best left tackle in the NFL! Jake can dominate anyone that he’s lined up against and the presence of a new coach with a fresh offensive scheme should be enough to motivate Long to have another Pro Bowl season.
-Jonathan Martin: Martin is probably the player who has the most intrigue on the offensive line is the second round draft choice from Stanford. Martin has the opportunity to come in and start week one against the Houston Texans if he can perform well enough in training camp and in the pre-season. The biggest concern is if Martin can adjust from the left tackle position that he played in college and shift to the right side of the line. He played in 39 career games at Stanford, but 37 of them came at left tackle. Martin’s experience playing in a zone-blocking scheme will help his early development and the Dolphins wouldn’t have selected him with the 42nd pick if they didn’t feel like he could start right away.
-Lydon Murtha: It should be a two-way battle to start at right tackle and Murtha is Martin’s main competition. Lydon is coming off of a toe injury that placed him on the injured reserve list for the 2011 season. At 6’6” and 304 pounds, Murtha has the size and demeanor that Philbin is looking for along the offensive front. He doesn’t have a lot of playing experience with Miami, so this is definitely a decision that will go into the pre season games, and performances in those games should determine a starter.
-Nate Garner: Garner gives the Dolphins a veteran presence that can also play multiple positions. Garner started at left guard for an injured Richie Incognito on October 30th against the New York Giants. He played in a reserve role for the other 15 games in 2012, but can play all five of the positions along the offensive line.
-Will Barker: Barker was inactive in 12 games last season after he was signed from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad in 2011. The 6’7”, 325-pound tackle never missed a start in four seasons while playing for the University of Virginia.
-Dustin Waldron: A free agent out of Portland State, Waldron played 37 games in his career (starting 31 of them). He’s 6’6” and 280 pounds and will need to separate from the other undrafted free agent lineman early in camp.
-Andrew McDonald: Dolphins signed McDonald in the off-season after playing collegiality at Indiana, where he started all 12 games at left tackle as a senior and 11 games as a junior. Andrew fits the new Miami mold on the offensive line coming into camp at 6’6, 285 pounds.
So there you have it! A complete list of the players at offensive line that will go into training camp, some with jobs already secured and others that will need to produce to win a position. Fellow Finsider and former Dolphins offensive lineman Keith Sims wants to see ” synergy of this line come together from the first training camp practice all the way through the last and through preseason. That, to me, will be how the success of this offensive line is judged, how quickly they come together.” I’m hoping whomever the final five are build a foundation of toughness and execution that leads points and wins in 2012!
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